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By Alicia VanNoy Call
No one knows how it started.
It could have been that a log popped and one spark made it through the grate, across the hearth, and onto the Persian rug. Perhaps a window was left open, curtains drifting into the yellow flame of a candle on the roll top desk. It may be that a smoldering pipe fell into bedclothes.
A neighbor took his dog on a late walk; the summer night was clear with high scudding clouds. A fine moon lit his way. As he passed by the Abernathy mansion, he saw flames licking at a window, heard the crackle of burning wood. The neighbor rushed into the house, found Abernathy in the drawing room overcome by smoke, and dragged him to safety on the lawn.
Abernathy coughed awake moments later, just as the clanging fire truck arrived, and got to his feet. He wiped at his streaming eyes and stumbled toward the house. One quick firefighter restrained Abernathy as the others unraveled the hose.
Abernathy thrashed in the firefighter's grip.
“Are there any other occupants?” asked the firefighter. His grip was strong and he didn't let go.
“My animals!” Abernathy screamed, waving his arms. “Save my animals!”
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